The Conscience of Capitalism

June 22, 2010

Arun Maira in Forbes India

At a meeting in Sweden recently of young people from around the world, a Nigerian woman shared the grief of her people. She said that, every year for the past 20 years, large quantities of oil, as much as that leaking into the Gulf of Mexico from the broken BP oil rig, have been spilling in her country from an MNC’s leaking pipelines and broken rigs. The waterways have become completely contaminated. The waters are so oily they even burn! Water for drinking and bathing is hard to come by. The health of the people has been badly affected. There are no more fish to catch. Agriculture is impossible. Livelihoods are destroyed. The US media is full of anger with BP for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She sympathised with the people of Louisiana whose concerns are known to the whole world now, but she wondered if they even knew what had been happening in Nigeria all these years?
The Indian media is filled with anger with Union Carbide and the tragedy of Bhopal. When a rare brown pelican was smothered in oil in Louisiana, the US President said he was looking for someone’s ass to kick in BP. The people of Bhopal, where thousands of human beings were killed, ask the Indian government why no one’s ass has been kicked.

Read the whole thing

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Pass the methyl isocyanate, please [Business Standard]

June 16, 2010

From Mitali Saran’s column, Stet:

Hear ye, o people of India: don’t think you can get away with really bad stuff, because the long arm of the law will reach out and bring you to trial and give you what you deserve. In Bhopal the law heard 178 prosecution witnesses on the stand talk about the estimated 25,000 people who have died or suffered from methyl isocyanate poisoning and its after-effects since 1984; it heard eight defence witnesses mutter darkly about sabotage; it examined 3,000-odd documents; it fast-tracked the whole thing so that only one of the accused died in the process. The law weighed up the evidence, decided the accused were guilty, and then fearlessly sentenced them to the legal equivalent of a wedgie.

Do you really want a wedgie, o people of India?

Read the whole thing.


Games big corporations play [The Hindu]

June 16, 2010

P Sainath in The Hindu:

Yet, the notion that the main injustice to Bhopal is the failure to extradite then UCC chief Warren Anderson from America is mildly ridiculous. Trying to evade the lessons the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster threw up on the tyranny of giant corporations is completely so. Well over two decades after its MIC gas slaughtered 20,000 (mostly very poor) human beings, Bhopal still pays the price of Carbide’s criminality. (Evident from the long-term impact on the health of the gas-affected. And from the poisoned soil and water around the former Carbide plant.) While the Indian government’s appalling Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, if adopted, would give legal cover to such conduct across the country.

Bhopal marked the horrific beginning of a new era. One that signalled the collapse of restraint on corporate power. The ongoing BP spill in the Mexican Gulf — with estimates ranging from 30,000-80,000 barrels a day — tops off a quarter-of-a-century where corporations could (and have) done anything in the pursuit of profit, at any human cost. Barack Obama’s ‘hard words’ on BP are mostly pre-November poll-rants. The BP can take a lot of comfort from two U.S. Supreme Court judgments in the past two years.

[Read the whole thing.]


Emergency causing emergency

June 16, 2010

Annie Zaidi

Who knows what one swift decision might lead to?

I wonder if those who grant licenses to chemical industries can even picture the possibilities contained within those factories where hazardous chemical compounds are being manufactured. I know I couldn’t have imagined it – boxes of inanimate matter leading to deaths and birth defects even at a generation’s remove… and all it takes is a signature on a piece of paper. A license, a clearing of bureaucratic hurdles, a dismissal of all fears about pollution. A paper – whether in triplicate or not – got signed. And then thousands and thousands of dead mutilated bodies.
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Hark, The Evening Language Of The Poor (Tehelka)

June 16, 2010

Indra Sinha in Tehelka:

It was always about powerful people and hidden motives. Since the verdict, and the public howl of rage, some of these characters have been emerging, like the slug, into the light. Justice Ahmadi, who in 1996 diluted charges against the Indian accused, asks why, if he was wrong, did the CBI not challenge him for 14 years? All those years Bhopal campaigners asked the same thing and got no answer. Now BR Lall, former Director of the CBI, reveals that he was ordered in writing by the Ministry of External Affairs not to try too hard to extradite Anderson. When asked why he did not speak out before, he said, ‘About the hawala case I wrote a book, I made all the evidence public. So what is so great that about every case that I should go to public?’

What is so great? Twenty thousand dead? Half a million affected? One lakh still seriously ill?

In July 2004, a US intelligence agent in Mumbai reported to Washington that Indian ministers, for political reasons, would pretend to be pro-extradition. Other documents show that the US Departments of Justice and State colluded with Carbide’s public relations people and Indian authorities on a strategy for saving Anderson. “Hope it works,” one judicial officer remarked.

Read the whole thing.


‘Justice’ for Bhopal is just political farce (M J Akbar in the TOI)

June 14, 2010

From M J Akbar’s column in the Times of India:

Delhi has set the gold standard for cynicism. It operates on four axioms: public memory is a dwarf; anger is effervescent; media can be massaged at the appropriate moment; any public crisis can be assuaged with crumbs, while the promotion of private interests continues off-screen.

Jairam Ramesh’s promise of a Green Tribunal in Bhopal is a classical instance of a crumb dipped in the pickle of hypocrisy. Where was this or any other tribunal in the last 26 years when the dead, the deformed and blind babies and the stillborn fetuses were a reminder that justice must be done? Or is this tribunal meant for the next onslaught by the dogs of chemical war upon the sleeping slums of Bhopal? Who was Veerappa Moily trying to fool when he claimed that the case against Warren Anderson had not been closed? Why doesn’t he keep the case open for a few more years, until God closes the chapter by taking Anderson away to whichever destination has been allotted to the butcher of Bhopal? A Group of Ministers has been appointed — merely to buy time until the return of amnesia.

Read the whole thing.


55¢

June 8, 2010

So the verdict is in.

25 years it took to come to this conclusion?

As Indra Sinha says in The Guardian’s Comment is Free

The company fined $11,000 for causing the deaths of more than 20,000 people? That’s 55 cents a death. What of the quarter of a century of suffering endured by more than 100,000 sick survivors? Eleven cents apiece. As criminal damages go, never has a lower price been set on human life and health.